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Culture Ministry looks to establish DMZ tour in near future

A new type of walking tour will soon traverse the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Thanks to the latest government initiative, in coming years tourists may be able to tread on the path that shows the division of Korea, and wish for peace to come to both sides of the border.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is pushing for ways to open a walking tour in the Demilitarized Zone, together with the Korea Tourism Organization. The idea is part of the ministry’s big plan to develop the divided zone into a tour zone, with the more euphonious name “Peace and Life Zone” (PLZ). The plan also includes ways to preserve the ecology, history and culture of the zone in the long term.

The grand walking tour, which is expected to be 545 kilometers long in total, will stretch from the heavily guarded tour spots in South Korea to beautiful nature spots hidden adjoining the DMZ (but inside the line of civilian control). The path will be divided into seven courses in the regions of Goseong-Inje (100 km), Yanggu (60 km), Hwacheon (90 km), Cheolwon (80 km), Yeoncheon (100 km), Paju (70 km) and Gimpo-Ganghwa (50 km), from the east coast to the west coast of the Peninsula.

The activities will include visits to commemorative places like the Unification Observatory, War Memorial, Manhae Village and other museums; a trip down into underground invasion tunnels dug by North Korea, old train stations and bridges and an ecological tour to mountain regions and valleys.

So far, only the first course of the walking tour zone -- the Yangu-Hwacheon region -- is completed, based on its accessibility. The Culture Ministry, in order to promote the staged establishment of the Peace and Life Zone, has run a pilot tour in the Yangu-Hwacheon region for two days on May 21 and 22.

Over 100 members made up of foreigners -- Korean War veterans, students and journalists from overseas -- and employees of travel agencies participated in the event. Another 40 members were government officials from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Unification and the provincial government of Gangwon-do (Gangwon Province). The group planted commemorative trees, walked on a few courses, explored the ecology of the region, visited nearby Korean army camps and more.

The Culture Ministry already signed a Memorandum of Understanding last February with the Korea Tourism Organization to make joint efforts to develop the DMZ and its nearby regions into an ecological tour zone.

“There will be more projects for the DMZ, aside from the walking tour,” a related official of the Culture Ministry said. “By the latter half of this year we plan to develop a school field trip zone in the DMZ for students from both home and abroad and make further promotion of the PLZ concept.”

By Kim Hee-sung Staff Writer

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